Friday, October 15, 2010

Spencer Thomas: Chasin' the blues with the best pie in Texas

"Life's more pie!"

When I arrived in Kyle, Texas a little over a year ago, those words greeted me on my first drive down Central, the main thoroughfare in the downtown area. The Texas Pie Company, known in these here parts as Pieco, serves up what may be the tastiest slice of pie in the world. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but I've never been a huge pie fan until I tried one of their buttermilk pies. And then their blueberry pie. And then their key lime pie. And then their strawberry-rhubarb pie. And then their lemon chess pie. And then their...well, you get the idea.

What makes Pieco so special is their pie crust. It isn't that flaky pastry crust that everyone else uses. No, it's more crumbly, almost like a shortbread cookie. I can remember eating pie as a kid, and I would always scoop out the filling and leave the crust behind. With Pieco, those days are over. I eat every last crumb. It's THAT good. In fact, my 14-year-old nephew Alec has thanked me on numerous occasions for introducing him to the joys of buttermilk pie. It's currently his favorite thing in the entire world.

Over the last year, my brother and I have come to know Spencer Thomas, who owns Pieco along with Julie Albertson. He's even one of our clients at Blue Computer Solutions. Well, it turns out Spencer Thomas is one heck of a great bluesman (Spencer prefers the term rhythm and soul), and he released not one but TWO albums of blues standards in 2010. This first is a live album, Live From the Saxon Pub (V8 Records, 845-023-691-5) in Austin, Texas, which includes his band of Michael Holt (guitar), Jim Trimmier (sax), Rodney Craig (drums) and Brad Fordham (bass). The second is the studio album Gulf Coast Charms (Great Blues Recordings, GR2053-2), which includes Holt along with fellow bluesmen Little Ray Ybarra, Paul Orta, Mark Solis, Paul Choate and Albert Storo.

So it's not enough that Spencer is responsible for some of the best pie in the lower 48, but he has to be one powerful bluesman as well. He's been performing around Austin for the last 25 years, and he's played with some of the best in the business. He has one of those clear, passionate blues voices that instantly communicate sorrow, joy and generous doses of Texas humor. It's clear that he and his band are also having a great time up on the stage, and they certainly hold nothing back. I must also point out that Holt in particular is a great blues and rock guitarist and is an equally potent counterpoint to Spencer's strong vocal delivery. (The rest of the band rocks as well--Spencer insists on only the best for his audiences.)

While many of the songs on both CDs are blues standards such "Nothing Takes the Place of You," "I Had a Dream Last Night" and Ray Charles' "Blackjack," Spencer does include some of his own songs such as "Missin' Persons," "Don't Give Her Tequila" and "Maybe Be Her Slave," all of which are infused with Spencer's playful sense of humor and sound like lost classics. If you're a fan of Texas blues, you'll definitely dig what Spencer is doing. And if you're a fan of pie, now you know where to find the best.

The Texas Pie Company is located at 202 W. Center Street, right in the heart of downtown Kyle. If you're anywhere in Hays County, a kind soul will gladly point you in the right direction. And if you want to check out Spencer's music and get some of his CDs, just visit his website at

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